All the leaves are nearly brown, skies sometimes gray, there's a slight chill in the air, and my ears and eyes have been quite busy. A touch of melancholia and a satchel full of dreams yet to be realized. Winter is just around the corner. A hint of summer still lingers in the late afternoon sun. Walks in the park with the dog, shared playlists on Spotify providing the soundtrack. I remain an ever faithful servant to smart culture's demands.
"Cicadas and Gulls" Feist Metals (Cherrytree) - Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist displays her chops in full maturity on her third CD. So much to enjoy, yet I'm continually drawn to this evocative, simple double-tracked voice and acoustic guitar folk song. I suspect it fully captures my current mood.
"Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" The Smiths Complete Box Set (Rhino) - Rarely do I purchase music, one of the perks of being an underpaid journalist, but I had to buy this box set given that the label was only supplying digital copies. All of Morrissey and Marr's catalog has now been remastered and slightly remixed. Or is it just my imagination that guitarist Johnny Marr has goosed his majestic guitar playing in the mix ever so slightly? Even so, he's always been one of my favorite players. From the Strangeways, He We Come LP, this final single barely made a dent in the U.K. charts when it was released in '87. Regardless, it remains a evergreen classic.
Rock Seen by Bob Gruen (Abrams) - There may have been better rock and roll photographers, stylistically speaking, but Gruen had the knack for being at the "right place at the right time" in New York City as these historical photos will attest. Arresting images of The Clash, Zeppelin, John Lennon, New York Dolls, The Ramones, et al. all vie for attention in this aptly coffee table book. And for a first-hand account of these photos, check out my webcast interview with him.
"Junior Dad" Lou Reed & Metallica Lulu (Warner) - This is beautiful noise. I didn't think it would work, given Lou's intimidating nature. I confess I've longed for the days of Transformer for years. (That's just the nostalgia junkie in me.) Lulu is based on a series of plays by German dramatist Frank Wedekind as interpreted by Robert Wilson. Lou and Metallica's musical adaptation is the ebb and flow of excess, an exercise in heavy words and heavier music. And this ambitious 19+ minute drone track seems to float above the din like an opiated junkie. Like The Doors' Oedipal masterpiece "The End" meets the Velvets' "Sister Ray." In fact, you can see the genesis of this song in a Lulu concert in Paris with Lou, his wife Laurie Anderson, and John Zorn back in 2009. Metallica gives it the throbbing hook and punch needed to awaken the slumbering beast until it nods out again.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO) - Loving the second season of this Prohibition-era, Martin Scorsese executive-produced television drama. How good is the cast? Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, Michael Shannon as Agent Nelson Van Alden, Michael Stuhlberg as Arnold Rothstein, Vincent Piazza as Lucky Luciano, et al., are riveting. Kudos to the casting department, the actors, the writers, the sumptuous clothes, the wonderfully engaging storylines. Better than the hootch at your corner speakeasy.
"I Might" Wilco The Whole Life (dBpm/ANTI) - A churning garage rock ditty complete with Farfisa organ, scuzzy guitar, and throbbing bass can't quite keep itself from bobbing to the surface every time I play Jeff Tweedy's ninth album. Dig the chorus: “It’s alright/ You won’t set the kids on fire/ But I might.” Makes me wonder aloud if his next effort shouldn't be a whole collection of Nuggets-era covers.
Glenn Barr's Faces (La Luz de Jesus Press) - It didn't take New York ComicCon long to flex its creative East Coast muscle and challenge San Diego's West Coast event. And that's fine by me as it affords me a much closer proximity to some of my favorite fringe culture artists and writers. This time 'round I met the Detroit-based artist Glenn Barr. His new book explores the concept of beauty rendered through his distorted lens of exploring women's faces. Elongated necks, exaggerated eyes, mystery and intrigue as we play voyeur leafing through his book. While I enjoy the printed page, Barr's works should be seen in person. Or better yet, purchased from said artist.
"Satisfied" Tom Waits Bad As Me (Anti) - Waits has always been a singer/songwriter old before his time. Even as a young man playing boho hobo troubadour, he remained true to himself and in the process released an extraordinary catalog of music. He is one of America's greatest living composers. His latest effort feels like a distillation of every thing he has done before, so you get the crooner, the rascal, the storyteller, the poet, the preacher, the shuck-n-jive showman all rolled into one satisfying album. My favorite track revisits his Rain Dogs-era period, even employing Keith Richards as he did back then. No doubt the Stones' "Satisfaction" was a catalyst for "Satisfied"; he even name-checks Keef and Mick on this caterwauling ditty.
The Book of Ice by Paul Miller (mbp Books) - Mr. Miller AKA DJ Spooky has distilled his über cool with us again. Traveling to any remote wilderness is bound to inspire and cultivate a plethora of emotion. Thankfully Paul captured and shared his journey to the Antarctica with this stunning collection of "visual and textual meditations" from this vast and frozen tundra that remains one of our planet's most mysterious landmasses.
"Hardwired" Ivan Julian The Naked Flame (259 Records) - Mr. Julian has played guitar on some epic tracks in his career -- "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell & The Voidoids being one of the best singles ever -- and toured/played on three albums by Matthew Sweet. This new punk rock ditty has all of that swagger along with a Stones-like attitude. Given his CV, it's hard to believe this is his official debut!
"She Walks The Night" Matthew Sweet Modern Art (Missing Piece) - And speaking of Matthew Sweet... He's one of my favorite alt-pop rockers of the modern era. His album Girlfriend remains an essential DID. While his new effort is a return to those sumptuous melodies, it's not nearly as majestic. But this Byrds homage with ringing 12-string Rickenbacker conjures up the essence of that groundbreaking folk-rock quintet when Gene Clark led their chart-topping charge.
See you in 'hood.
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 4 solo CDs, and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.